The Barkley Marathon... the most insanely difficult race in the world

Published On 07/23/2013 Published On 07/23/2013

If you thought that the world's most insane race was The Dutch, then you'd be slightly racist, and totally wrong. It's the Barkley Marathon, and here's why...

Taking place sometime every year (the date is never officially disclosed), somewhere in Warburg, TN (the official location isn't revealed until the last minute, even to the racers), it's the brainchild of a local dude named Gary Cantrell. He was inspired when he found out that after Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassin, James Earl Ray, escaped from the now-abandoned Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary, he only made it eight miles through the woods after running for nearly 55 hours. Cantrell figured he could do at least 100mi through the same terrain in that time. Well, it turns out he totally couldn't. Undaunted, however, he's been orchestrating attempts for other people to mostly fail at the same task since 1986.

Should you be able to figure out where to send your registration for Cantrell's more-or-less-totally-insane race (the only people who know are former racers), it only costs first-timers a personal essay, $1.60 cash, and a license plate from their home state, which is then displayed here. Only 35 (out of hundreds) of these lucky applicants will get in, and of the more than 1000 people who've competed in The Barkley throughout its history, only 14 runners have ever finished (two of whom were DQd after messing up a single 200yd portion).

Among the reasons it's so hard? Beyond the fact that it's 100 freaking miles, including around 59,000ft of climb and 59,000ft of descent? Well, there's the fact that the trail uses clues deliberately meant to trick you, there are hecklers, no aid stations, a totally unmarked course, and about a dozen books placed at various intervals from which you must rip out the page that corresponds to your race number. Oh, and the whole thing is started by the lighting of a cigarette.



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